Ryan Brown, Jim Dunaway, Lance Taylor and Sean “Rockstar” Heninger may never host a show on terrestrial radio again. That’s a jarring statement, seeing as the group spent a collective 77 years at WJOX 94.5 FM in Birmingham and hosted one of the most popular shows Alabama sports talk radio has ever seen. But if the group never does another show on the radio dial, it just might mean their new venture turned into a massive success.
The former hosts of The Roundtable are betting big on themselves by leaving one of the most established radio stations in the south and creating their own digital platform. No, they weren’t pushed out of JOX, in fact, the station offered the show an extension. But the crew wanted a new challenge, a new format and a chance to change the landscape of Alabama sports media. Thus, The Next Round was born.
“We’re beyond excited about this,” said Taylor. “There’s just so much we can do with it. We really wanted autonomy, equity and to create our own thing by building a digital platform. We’ve seen very talented people in the industry that are going this route..”
Taylor is right. Talented hosts such as Clay Travis, Pat McAfee, Dan Le Batard and Joe Rogan are doing incredible work with digital platforms and they’re only getting more popular by the day. The Next Round is hoping they’ll be the next to prove you don’t need an AM or FM signal to be a popular sports talk show.
“Obviously we’re light years away from those guys,” said Taylor. “But I’m really good friends with Clay Travis and what he’s been able to do at Outkick has been incredible. I have no idea where this thing is going, it’s truly limitless. But it’s also a little sad, because I spent so much time in radio. The elements of everything were going to do, it’s going to include everything but terrestrial radio. That’s the only thing we won’t be doing.”
Starting in August, The Next Round will air every weekday morning from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm CST. That means they’ll be changing their time slot from morning drive to mid-morning and the middle of the day.
“Part of our desire was to get out of morning drive,” said Dunaway. “Not all of us were big fans of waking up at 3:30 in the morning.”
Several options will be available to both listen and watch The Next Round when the new show debuts next month. Initially, the website, nextroundlive.com, will be the easiest way to listen to the show. However, a mobile app is on the horizon and will give listeners the option to stream directly.
The option to watch the show will also be easy, as The Next Round will stream on YouTube, Twitch as well as Facebook and Twitter.
“We’re going to stream our show 24 hours a day,” said Dunaway. If you’re on the app, we’ll always be on the air. If you want to listen to us from 9 to 1 or 2 o’clock or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, if you work late nights driving a truck, you can get the app and it’ll be like streaming live with us.”
As exciting as this new venture is, there’s a big risk that’s involved. The obvious question to ask, is why? Why leave one of the most popular radio stations in the south, where each guy had security, a good paycheck and a wildly popular show? Why risk all of that for a massive unknown?
“I was really comfortable at JOX and I had a really good client list,” said Taylor, who also did sales at JOX. “I had a lot of security there but it was the right time, at this stage in my life, we were just ready for a new chapter and a new challenge. I think this digital platform is it.”
“It’s climbing up a new mountain for us,” said Dunaway. “I’ve done 20 years of television and jumped into radio, because it was a different challenge and I love that format. I’ve always liked trying new things and this is the next mountain to climb. I wanted to make sure all four of us are together for the rest of my career.”
This won’t be the first time listeners have been asked to follow the show during a switch. At JOX, the show moved from the middle of the day to morning drive after nine years in the lunch slot. The listeners followed and the expectation is that they’ll do the same thing this time around. The good news for those who loved The Roundtable is that the show will sound very different than it did on terrestrial radio.
“My view is that we’ll continue to focus on Alabama and Auburn,” said Brown “Those are the local teams that the mass majority of our listeners and viewers care about. I think the TV numbers show this, there’s people in Birmingham and all across Alabama that love college football. Alabama and Auburn are going to be the focus, naturally, but college football is going to be the focus, overall. “
The fact the show has worked for so long is what gives the group the most confidence The Next Round will be a success. Granted, Taylor’s ability to sell advertising and Heninger’s understanding of how to produce the show are major pluses, but the chemistry between all four guys is what truly shines.
“We’re basically like brothers, because we mess with each other a lot,” said Heninger. “We’ll comment on each other’s shoes or clothes, really anything. Everyone has something we like to rag on. The chemistry just works.”
Heninger doubles as a musician that plays local gigs in the Birmingham area. Taylor swears he’s the most talented in the group and notes his impeccable timing of often only saying one thing an hour, but making it so funny, it’s often the most memorable thing said the entire hour. Rockstar is truly the comedic relief of the show.
FCC regulations are no longer a worry, due to the show not broadcasting on terrestrial radio. So how might that change things?
“That’s a very popular question,” laughed Taylor. “We have three layers to the show. Brown is very conservative. Very witty, but very conservative. Dunaway is kind of middle of the road and I’m the guy they kind of peg as El Diablo. We’re not going to be dropping F bombs left and right, just to do it. It’s amazing I made it 23 years in the business without ever breaking an FCC violation. Now I just don’t have to have the guard and filter up that much. There’s not a filter but we still want it to be authentic.”
There are some unknowns with The Next Round. Taylor has never sold digital media, product placement or YouTube. There’s also the fact that so many different viewing and listening options could create confusion and/or headaches for the audience, and no one knows yet if the listeners will follow the show to a new platform or just stick to their comfortable routine of listening to sports talk on the radio dial on JOX.
But big rewards come from taking big risks. These guys are well aware of the challenges they’re facing and they’re betting on themselves. If it breaks right, the return could be massive.
“I have complete confidence in the guys I work with,” said Brown. “We all have the same vision and we’re united in it. I have confidence in those who have always followed us. They’re loyal and fans of ours. The people of Alabama love college football and sports. We do that and in an entertaining fashion. That’s what we do.”
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.
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